First off, I should point out that I’ve never played any of the other Thief games. But I have read about them. The “thief” in the game is one Garrett, a mysterious fellow adept with a lock pick, bow, or blackjack. Garrett’s place is in the shadows: the Thief games are first person sneakers, which basically means that you are better off skulking past trouble rather than running into it head on.
So, with the stage set, how was the game? Graphically, Thief III is top notch. Lighting and shadow are, not surprisingly, very important in this game, and are rendered well. The moonlight shining through a window produces diffuse beams of light with motes of dust…its actually quite pretty. Sound is also very important: much of the time, Garrett is hiding in a corner and risking a peek at the nearby guards could be deadly. But hearing the footsteps as the guards complete their rounds is nearly as good as seeing the guard.
The hard part with a sneaking game like Thief is the AI…
… and I am happy to say that Thief III does an excellent job in the “smarts” department. The guards have nice, regular “beats”, but if you (or someone else) makes an unusual noise, they are off to investigate. When searching, they are more sensitive to new noises…this leads to tension and makes the whole “sneaking” process seem real. And guards aren’t the only citizens of the city Garrett plys his trade in. The shop keepers, bar maids, and others wander the streets, react to unconscious bodies and blood, and fight (or run away screaming) from the baddies unleashed as the game progresses.
And this variety of “background players” is something that really sets Thief apart. Unlike a lot of games in the “action” metagroup, Thief III places you in a environment that has more to it than just the next linear objective. The guards, shopkeepers, citizens, and two main factions in the city aren’t really part of the “core” story at all, yet they can help or hinder you at every stage. Need some spare cash to buy equipment for the next mission? Maybe that wealthy noble walking by with the heavy looking purse can help out. Or perhaps you’ll overhear a conversation about something worth stealing.
And those factions I mentioned? Well, the citizens themselves have their own enemies and agendas…regardless of what Garrett is doing, fights and battles will break out, attracting the attention of less politically inclined citizens. And as the plot progresses, even some of the “monsters” start mixing it up with the the townsfolk- there were a couple of running battles that kept me pinned in the darkness for long periods of time. The deathtoll was astounding, ordinary citizens were running around screaming and trying to hide…not big crowds, mind you, but enough action to make the situation complicated and interesting.
Despite his preference to keep to the shadows, Garrett isn’t completely unable to “mix it up”. In a pinch, in perfect health, he’s a toe-to-toe match for an ordinary armoured guard. And if killing is your style, Garrett can snipe from a distance with his bow, or sneak up behind someone and use his dagger very effectively: the only “downside” is the blood left behind, which can attract unwanted attention. Other weapons you’ll discover include landmines, knockout gas, and several “utility” arrows to put out lights or silence footsteps over otherwise noisy floors.
I won’t reveal anything to speak of regarding the main plot. It has plenty of twists and turns and, for me at least, was quite engaging. On normal difficulty, the game took me about 30 to 35 hours of play time to complete. That’s using plenty of save games and quick saves, both of which Thief supports in unlimited quantities. Levels load somewhat slowly, as do save games, but performance is overall quite good. Bear in mind that my normal gaming station is fairly powerful.
All in all, I was very pleased with Thief: Deadly Shadows. I’d give it a 93 out of 100 on the Kelly rating scale.